Transcribing conversations

We learn to speak before we can write, so speech could be called our primary form of communication. However, unless they’re recorded, spoken words are not permanent. Transcribing a conversation creates a permanent record. Read on to find out more about transcribing conversations.


      What is a transcribed conversation?

      A transcription creates an accurate written record of a spoken conversation. It involves recording the spoken words to create either an audio or video file and then converting this into text. The transcription process can be done manually or automatically using specialised apps.

      Why transcribe a conversation?

      A transcribed conversation can be useful as it creates a permanent record that can be referred to in the future. This is useful for research purposes, legal proceedings or any other sort of record-keeping that demands an accurate record of a conversation. With the best will in the world, it can be hard to remember the exact words of a conversation.

      Transcribing conversations also makes them more accessible to people who are hearing-impaired or have cognitive processing differences.

      Full audio and video transcription solutions

      Transcribing conversations: example

      Here’s a simple transcribed conversation; notice that the non-spoken audio is included in brackets. The two speakers are anonymised in this record but could also be given named labels if appropriate.

      Speaker 1: Hi, how are you doing?

      Speaker 2: Hey, I’m good, thanks. How about you?

      Speaker 1: Doing pretty well. I’ve been working on some research into shopping habits and it’s been really interesting.

      Speaker 2: Oh, that sounds cool. What have you found so far?

      Speaker 1: Well, I’ve been looking at how people make decisions about what to buy, and it’s been fascinating to see how much our emotions and social influences play a role.

      Speaker 2: Yeah, that’s really interesting. Have you looked into the impact of advertising and marketing?

      Speaker 1: Absolutely. (pauses) It’s amazing how much our behaviour can be influenced by things like product placement and celebrity endorsements.

      Speaker 2: That’s so true. (pauses) Have you come across any surprising findings?

      Speaker 1: Actually, yes. (laughs) I found that people often buy things they don’t need just because they’re on sale or there’s a limited-time offer.

      Speaker 2: Oh wow, I can definitely relate to that. (laughs) It’s hard to resist a good deal.

      Speaker 1: Definitely. (pauses) But it’s also interesting to see how some people are really deliberate and intentional with their shopping, focusing on things like sustainability or supporting local businesses.

      Speaker 2: Yeah, I think that’s becoming more and more important to people these days. (pauses) Well, thanks for sharing your research with me. It’s really fascinating stuff.

      Speaker 1: No problem, always happy to chat about it. (laughs)

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      Get started with transcription. Here you will find templates for both detailed transcription and standard transcription. You can use the formats and examples in your own working document.

      Different ways that conversations are transcribed

      There are different ways that conversations can be transcribed. Different transcription types are suited to different needs and the intended use of the transcript. Here are a few examples:

      1. Verbatim transcription: A verbatim transcription captures every word, sound and pause in a conversation, including filler words like ‘um’ and ‘uh’. Sounds like laughter and sighs are also included. This type of transcription is particularly useful for legal proceedings, research interviews, or other situations where an exact record of the conversation is required.
      2. Clean transcription: A clean transcription is a lightly edited version of a verbatim transcription. During the light edit, filler words, false starts and other unnecessary elements of speech are removed. This makes the transcription more easily readable and is useful when the transcript needs to be more polished, such as for media interviews and podcasts.
      3. Intelligent verbatim transcription: An intelligent verbatim transcription captures only the essence of what is being said. During editing, filler words and instances of repetition are removed. This type of transcription is useful for capturing the intent of the conversation when an exact record of the discussion is not necessary.
      4. Discourse transcription: Discourse transcription is a form of linguistic analysis that captures the structure of a conversation, including turn-taking, interruptions and the speaker’s intentions. This type of transcription is used in sociolinguistic research and for analysing group communication patterns.
      5. Semi-verbatim transcription: A semi-verbatim transcription captures the main points of a conversation and takes out the filler words and any other sounds that aren’t important, but not necessarily repetitions. This type of transcription is useful for business meetings, where a summary of the conversation and any agreed actions are required without the need for a verbatim transcript.

      How to transcribe a conversation

      Transcribing a conversation takes a lot of time and effort and it’s important to get it right. If you decide to transcribe conversations to create permanent records, here are some steps to follow:

      1. Before you begin to transcribe, listen to the audio or video recording carefully to familiarise yourself with the speakers’ voices and accents, as well as any background noise that might be distracting.
      2. Consider whether you need to transcribe every word, including filler words and non-verbal sounds, or if a summarised version of the conversation is all that’s needed. This will help you decide on the type of transcription to create.
      3. Consider using transcription software or tools to speed up the transcription process. We’ve listed some apps for transcribing conversations on iPhone and Android below.
      4. Begin transcribing the conversation, either by typing the transcript into a word processor or using transcription software. If you’re unsure about parts of the audio, be prepared to listen to it a few times until you can make out what’s being said.
      5. Once you’ve transcribed the conversation, proofread the transcript carefully for accuracy, grammar and spelling errors.

      Apps for transcribing audio

      Here are some examples of the most popular iPhone apps for transcription and the best Android apps for recording and transcribing voice conversations. We’ve included free and paid options. Each app has various functions. We’ve added links so that you can compare the apps and choose one for transcribing conversations that best meets your needs:

      Apps for transcribing conversations on iPhone

      1. Otter Voice Meeting Notes (Free with in-app purchases)
      2. Temi - Record and Transcribe (Free with paid transcription services)
      3. Rev Voice Recorder (Free with paid transcription services)

      The best Android apps for recording and transcribing voice conversations

      1. Phillips SpeechLive (Free demo and paid-for options)
      2. Transkriptor (Free with in-app purchases)
      3. Live Transcribe (Free)

      How do I transcribe a podcast?

      Transcribing a podcast helps create written content to complement your online content and it also makes it more accessible to a wider audience. Here’s what to consider when you’re transcribing podcasts:

      1. Choose the type of transcription method that will give you the results you need. See Different ways that conversations are transcribed’ above.
      2. Listen to the podcast episode carefully to familiarise yourself with the speakers’ voices and any background noises that might be distracting.
      3. Consider using transcription apps. See ‘Apps for transcribing audio’ above.
      4. Divide the podcast into segments, perhaps by time, episode or topic. This helps to keep the process manageable.
      5. Transcribe the podcast. See How to transcribe a conversation’ above.

      How do I transcribe a conversation in an academic essay?

      When you transcribe a conversation for an academic essay you should create a written record of the conversation that is accurate, concise and relevant to the topic of the essay. You might need to transcribe it using verbatim transcription if you need an exact record of the conversation. Decide what level of detail you need to record to help you choose a type of transcribing.

      Format your transcription in the style required by your academic institution. Include the transcript as an appendix or as a reference in the body of your text. This, of course, involves citing and referencing correctly using a system such as Harvard, APA, MLA etc. Learn more about academic referencing styles.

      Final thoughts

      Semantix’s multilingual transcribers can transcribe your conversations using the transcription type that best suits your project. They work in more than 170 languages, so can translate your audio from one language to another, and they’re ready to start working when you are... whatever time zone you’re in. If you’d like to talk to us about our confidential transcription services, fill in the form and we’ll be in touch.

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      Download templates for both detailed transcription and standard transcription. You can use the formats and examples in your own working document.